That’s how long I could watch the unique British musical that is Sunny Afternoon…
I am not given to standing up and waving my arms about at the end of shows, but I’m afraid to say I made an exception recently. My gorgeous wife (in whom I am well pleased) got tickets for the Kinks musical Sunny Afternoon. Kinks founder Ray Davies and his younger brother Dave obviously took the lead, played by John Dagleish and George Maguire with the most incredible energy, which wore me out just watching them – must be the age – and delivering totally brilliant renditions of Ray’s extensive songbook, and a plot that took us through their family history (including the sad fact that one of their sisters, who gave Ray his first guitar, died as a teenager on the dance floor.)
There was something about the intimacy of the theatre, and the warmth of the crowd, and the pure energy and talent I was watching, put Sunny Afternoon fair and square into the bracket of one of my most brilliant musicals ever. Lion King for special reasons, Beauty and the Beast for pure staging wizardry, Les Mis because it makes me cry every single time (right from a preview I saw in New York) …and this.
If anyone in the cast, and especially the two leads, ever get to see this modest blog, they can go to bed safe in the knowledge that they were involved in totally great musical theatre – and Ray, if you’re out there, you’re a genius.
One of the dozens of high spots was their translation of Waterloo Sunset.
This is the image I have got of this classic pop song – and I don’t want anyone to change it by saying it wasn’t like that, or it wasn’t them, or it wasn’t even that location. This is my version. Ray Davies was the more serious Davies brother. Dave, the younger one, was enjoying every moment of his fame by clocking up an unstoppable list of women and enjoying every inch of the rock and roll lifestyle. So I have Ray standing in his shadowy apartment overlooking the Thames and staring across the water towards Waterloo station. Inspired by the gentle evening lighting, as Monet was, he begins to hum a creation, develop an emotive thought in his own style of painting in sound. The apartment is silent, a million miles away from the noise of the recording sessions, the adulation of Kinks fans, the buzz of the Ready Steady Go studio. Alone. It is Friday.
He sees two people crossing Waterloo Bridge. Friends he has met at a few sixties parties. Julie Christie and Terence Stamp, who met on the set of Far from the Madding Crowd, and fell in love. The constant adulation and pressure of constant screenings, auditions and interviews is put on hold. Julie is meeting her lover and stealing away for a weekend alone in a country cottage, where they will live and lie together for a God given moment before they return to their commitments as two of the most beautiful people on earth. Ray smiles. He is happy with this quiet life, with his wife, with his incredible and highly respected song-writing talent. And as long as he gazes on Waterloo Sunset he is in paradise.
He turns back into his room, the shadows growing long now, adjusts the sleeves of his white linen shirt, and picks up his guitar…
That’s how I see it – and I believe the Sunny Afternoon programme gave a slightly different story. But I refused to read it, because my scenario will always be in my head, especially when I hear this, probably one of the most atmospheric and beautiful pop songs ever.